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Administrative Politics and the Public Presidency


  • AUTHOR'S NOTES: I thank David Lewis and William Minozzi for helpful conversations and comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented in a roundtable at the 2007 Midwest Political Science Association Meetings in Chicago.

Brandice Canes-Wrone is a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University. She is the author of Who Leads Whom? Presidents, Policy, and the Public, and she regularly publishes in leading political science journals.


As a field, we know exceedingly little about how presidents’ public relations affect administrative politics. For instance, when will presidents create new agencies to satisfy public concern about an issue? When does public opinion provoke presidents to fire officials? The dearth of scholarship on these sorts of questions is striking, particularly given the literature's emphasis on the importance of public relations to the presidency. I argue that we cannot fully understand bureaucratic politics without considering the impact of this development, which scholars call the “public presidency.” Furthermore, research on the public presidency has concentrated on legislative politics, which differ considerably from administrative politics. After delineating general claims, the author outlines theoretical and empirical considerations for two specific avenues of research.